They used to call the highway approaching downtown Providence, Rhode Island — alternatively shining and … not — Barrel Country. The road was always lined with barrels painted orange and white, delineating places where construction and repair were taking place, endless tasks that seemed to have no end.
Today it poured and a spot on the Neck was Cone Land, four orange pylons marking the site of recent work on the drain that enables the Georgian Swamp to flow out to the Great Salt Pond.
They are cones, not exactly pylons, but I like to use the word; it is one of those odd words we remember learning. It was a television show, in black and white, wherein a plane, probably from Europe, low on fuel, hit turbulence then came out of the clouds to descend into Kennedy, then known as Idlewild, in New York, except there was no airport in view, only dinosaurs munching on vegetation as tall as they. Back into the clouds it and its disconcerted passengers went, only to emerge to the sight of a stark white orb and elongated cone, less familiar to me than the huge creatures. My mother recognized them and explained it was the site of the 1939 New York World’s Fair, the odd white objects were its symbols, the “Trylon and Perisphere.”
It may have been so memorable because there was, at the time, great anticipation of another World’s Fair to be held in nearly the same location.
Or it was just that the plane disappeared once more and the narrator ended the show telling us if we heard engines high overhead searching and desperate it was just Global 33 trying to get home from — of course — the Twilight Zone.
Strange the things that are etched forever on our brains.
The drain has been a problem for a few years, and this last work involved the setting of stones, which reminds me of work beside mainland highways, and carefully distributing and raking new earth that two days after being set in place is gullying out in the rain.
So, there are set on either side of the road two orange cones to remind drivers to slow down lest they really feel the bump where the pavement was cut away to repair the drain beneath and I am back in elementary school imagining a plane up there on the other side of the overcast, the passengers ageless, waiting to land.
It is not a bad place to slow down. The north side of the big barn has been re-shingled, the doors replaced, all new wood, with a brightness as fleeting as the unfurling red leaves of the big maple on the west side of the road. This is the time of year individual trees shine, these few maples that start the color of dried blood, here, in Rodman’s Hollow, and in scattered locations, and the great horse chestnuts, at the old Centre, on the West Side, and so many more that blend in with the maples come summer.
This is the time to mark the locations of the biggest fronds of white beach plum blossom, where the best harvest should be come fall, as long as we continue to get rain, although growth hardly seems to have been inhibited.
It was still raining late today when the steady gray that had settled in late afternoon began, finally, to fade toward dark. It must be no more than a quirk of timing that it seems the tide is always high when it is raining, that the ocean and the sky are bound together by water and we are living in a cocoon of dulled silver. Today the tide was low, a foot or two lower than it has been this week when the moon, visible or not, has been as close to the earth as it will be all year.
It felt the rain had to fall and keep falling until it had raised the level of the sea; low tide and green grass has no ring to it. The same puddles that were full a week ago, then emptied by the breezy sun, are filling again, the same depressions in the road that were dry are pools again.
It is rare to remember spring rain with the specificity we have this year. “Two weeks ago Sunday” I say with the absolute certainty usually reserved for winter with few snows, “the storm the day after Christmas” the year before last, and it is beginning to level out, the corner of the field that has been dry was under water at mid-day, the poor little pond is struggling to get to a level when muskrats can cavort. It is a safe haven, away from roads and traffic but they always want to keep moving, waddling off into dangerous territory. Some years I see them in the pond one day, squashed on the road the next, these thought to be very big rats, or I’d rather think at night when they weren’t visible.
Singular birds show in the gray day, a flash of egret wing over the hill, a cardinal, bright red in the overwhelming vines that have taken hold of the old shed and grackles, smooth and purple in the front yard. The deer do not even wait until dusk; they stand in the faint drizzle in the tall grass beside the road, immobile, waiting.
The rain has picked up again and the map shows it west into Pennsylvania and south to Atlantic City, more expansive than I was expecting when I flipped open the radar. The system is big, a great green blanket that will keep bouncing that New York bound plane back into a time warp.
The rain is feeding the earth, the leaves are opening, the sky that was scratched by winter bare tree branches is disappearing. Whole houses, wide vistas are vanishing as leaves open and grow and brush reaches higher and higher.
The soft look of summer is in the rain.